The latest crop of podcasts we recommend range from domestic terrorism, internet conspiracies and a famous Hollywood prostitution ring to Russian spies, prison outbreaks and the Royal Family. There is literally a podcast for everything now—and that’s a good thing. And I’ve now added some “Keep Listening” bonus series suggestions for the topics that interest you most.
Sarah Delashmit spent the past 20 years scamming people into believing she has cancer, muscular dystrophy, a variety of injuries and other random illnesses. She latches on to charity message boards to find friends/victims. The scams are so convincing at first, it’s hard not to believe her. She even goes after the disabled, making up jaw-dropping lies along the way. Midway through the series, she gets outed on the Dr. Phil Show. More victims of her deceptions come out of the woodwork to seek revenge. It’s a bonkers situation that makes you wonder what drives someone to manipulate others this way. Host Laura Beil (Dr. Death, Vaping Fix) attempts to figure out why.
Keep listening: Something Was Wrong offers 12 seasons about shocking events involving trauma, manipulation, coercive control and gaslighting.
Will Be WildAndrea Bernstien and Ilya Marritz, hosts of the podcast Trump, Inc thought they’d be done once he was out of office. That was until the capitol riot on January 6th. Will Be Wild (based on one of Trump’s tweets encouraging people to go to DC on January 6th) investigates how that day came to pass. They conduct interviews with former FBI and Homeland Security agents, White House Officials, and people who were at the capitol that day, always laying out specific examples to show how it had been brewing for a long time. They also delve into the Domestic Terrorism angle, talking to those who’ve been sounding the alarm for years. This eight-part series gives plenty of insight about what’s to come. It’s terrific but also terrifying.
Keep listening: The Pulitzer Prize-winning No Compromise from NPR is all about extreme pro-gun activist groups who seek to loosen gun regulations using Republicans to spread their messaging. How did politicians get so extreme? This was part of the lead up to the riots.
Run, Bambi, RunFrom Playboy Bunny to Milwaukee Police officer, Laurie Bembenek (AKA Bambi) found herself the center of attention when she was charged with murdering her husband’s ex-wife. But that’s not even half of the story. Run Bambi Run opens with Bambi escaping from prison and becoming an 1980s media sensation. Author Kris Radish joins Journalist Vanessa Grigorias to give you the backstory which she simply describes, “If you enjoy parties, sleeping around, debauchery and general misbehavior, I’ve got to tell you, the 1980 Milwaukee Police Department was the place to be.” That was enough to get me hooked.
Keep listening: Relative Unknown follows Jackee Taylor, who spent her early life during the ’70s in the Witness Protection Program and who sets out to find the truth about her father’s criminal past.
Truthers: Tiffany Dover Is Dead*When a nurse from Chattanooga was one of the first to get a Covid-19 shot and later fainted, the internet went wild. Brandy Zadrozny from NBC News hosts this series about a viral conspiracy. Anti-vaccine social-media accounts proclaimed her demise was related to the vax even though she later said she had an underlying medical issue that caused her to faint. It was too late though. Various platforms around the world crafted and ran with their own stories. Zadrozny sets out to find Tiffany Dover because she appears to have vanished, lending even more credibility to the mysterious theories that grow by the day. Does she find Tiffany Dover? You’ll have to listen to find out.
Keep listening: Rabbit Hole from The New York Times is probably the best podcast about algorithms, conspiracy theories and dark places on the internet.
It was one of the most salacious stories of the ’80s. A Hollywood madame with a black book full of famous and influential clients put on trial and eventually sentenced to prison. Why were the penalties so hard on the woman who brokered consensual sex? This series takes an in-depth look at Heidi Fleiss’s family history and how she was enterprising even in middle school. It gets into why sex work is often villainized by right-wing politicians and evangelicals even though some of them are active participants. The Heidi Chronicles also provides some great Los Angeles history by throwing it back to the old days with fun facts on historical landmarks and events.
Keep listening: Once Upon A Time…In The Valley is all about Traci Lords and the secrets of the Los Angeles porn underworld.
The AgentJack Barsky is a survivor of the KGB illegals program that ran during the Cold War. For years, he lived a double life as an American family man and a Soviet spy. Barsky (not his real name) tells his first-person account on how he got started and ultimately how he chose to leave. His story gives painstaking details about his life as a spy through the decades and it’s absolutely riveting. You’re conflicted on whether or not to like him, but I’ll at least give him credit for his brutal honesty. While we’re all watching what’s happening in Ukraine, this series is especially timely and Barsky gives candid insight into the Russian mentality.
Keep listening: Wind Of Change asks, “Did the CIA write the Scorpions’ hit song to signify the ending of the cold war?” This fascinating series examines how pop culture infiltrates politics to send messages that may or may not sway public opinion.
Dynasty, The RoyalsHosted by Vanity Fair’s royal correspondent Katie Nicholl and staff writer Erin Vanderhoof, this is a more modern take on the British monarchy. In the age of social media, the days of keeping the mystique alive are pretty much over. The first episode focuses on Prince Phillip’s funeral and how he was an early adopter of humanizing the royal family. Queen Elizabeth was not a fan, even early on. This leads to the current day with Harry and Meghan leaving London and not wanting to be part of the family. Throw in Prince Andrew, who’s mixed up in the Jeffrey Epstien scandal, and the crumpets really hit the fan. Everything old is new and different.
Keep listening: Even The Rich, Diana to Meghan – Meghanomania is a fun, long-running series dissecting famous rich families from the Murdochs to the Royals. The family details, mixed with some snarky humor, will keep you listening.
Mara Davis is a media personality based in Atlanta, Ga. In addition to hosting the VoteHer podcast with Senator Jen Jordan, she also is a senior talent booker for various television networks and podcasts.